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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

In Memorium

Dorothy Chapman Fuqua 1921-2015
It is with tremendous sadness that I note the passing of our great friend and patron, Mrs. Dorothy Chapman Fuqua. Mrs. Fuqua was a friend to everyone at the Garden. The Atlanta Botanical Garden wouldn't be what it is today without the support of Mrs. Fuqua, her husband, J.B., and their family. I remember Dottie as an extraordinarily thoughtful and kind woman, who always made time to chat, whose concern was always for others, and who understood the healing nature of gardens. Her desire to share beauty and tranquility with the people of Atlanta gave life to our dream of a conservatory and orchid center for our community and beyond. She was a jewel. We will miss her.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pink Tulip Orchid

At first glance, it would be possible to mistake this beautiful plant for Anguloa uniflora, another pink tulip orchid species. But Anguloa virginalis is recognizable by its laterally flattened flowers with pointed petals and sepals.

Front view, showing how narrow the flower of Avirginalis is compared with  A. uniflora. Orchid flowers have bilateral symmetry. But like virtually all organisms, this individual defies any expectation of symmetrical perfection. The column is turned slightly left of center, reflecting a twist in the ovary and scape. The two lower sepals meet unevenly. One sepal points slightly leftward. I like these fascinating  irregularities.

From the side, you can see the distinctive kink near the base of the tubular lip -a feature that is diagnostic for virginalis.

Ventral view of the lip. From this angle, you can see that the kink in the lip is actually a depression in the ventral surface.

Dorsal view of the lip.

Anguloa virginalis is native to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, where it grows as a terrestrial or lithophyte at around 2000 meters elevation in bright light. Henry Oakeley reports its habitat as full sun or light woodland and forest margins. Our plants like the cool temperatures (52º night minimum) of our Tropical High Elevation House where they are planted in the ground in a mixture of fine fir bark, charcoal and permatill.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Natural Hybrid

It was the single orange flower in a sea of yellow tulip orchids that stopped me in my tracks. We don't have many Anguloa x ruckeri in our greenhouse and it was worth stopping for a second look. Anguloa x ruckeri is a naturally occurring hybrid between Anguloa hohenlohii and Anguloa clowesii.

It grows terrestrially at 900 to 2000 meters elevation in Venezuela and is known at least historically from Colombia as well, according to Henry Oakeley in Lycaste, Ida and Anguloa, The Essential Guide (2008).

This individual has inherited an overlay of red spots from its hohenlohii parent. They coalesce into a deep rose colored wash on the interior. After I removed a petal and sepal, the lip (on the left) became visible opposite the column.

The lip is joined to the column by a tiny hinge at the foot of the column. As is typical in anguloas, the column foot is very long -in the photo above it is deep red. The hinge allows the lip to swing toward the column, bumping the bee against the anther cap at the end of the column.

The upper surface of the lip. It is intermediate in shape between Anguloa clowesii and Anguloa hohenlohii.

The underside of the lip.

Oakeley states that Anguloa x ruckeri is reported as growing in the same conditions in the wild as A. clowesii and A. hohenlohii. In cultivation, our plants are growing well in an intermediate greenhouse with 60º night minimum temperature and 70% shade.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter Tulip Orchids

Here to rescue us from January drabness is an welcome burst of winter flowers on three of our Tulip Orchid (Anguloa) taxa: clowesii, virginalis and x ruckeri. It's not very often that we have three different taxa flowering simultaneously, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a closer look at each one. They are lovely.

Anguloas have large waxy fragrant flowers that attract male Euglossine bees. This particular Anguloa clowesii has a touch of wintergreen in its fragrance. The genus Anguloa is sometimes called the Cradle Orchid because the flower has a hinged lip. Let's open up a flower and see how that works.

The interior of the flower is easier to see after I remove one petal and one sepal.

The lip of an Anguloa is hinged. It is attached to the column foot by a narrow band that allows the lip to swing back and forth between the sepals and the column. I love plants with moveable parts.

According to N.A. van der Cingel in An Atlas of Orchid Pollination (2001), the male Euglossine bee lands on the lip, turns and backs into the flower. He holds onto the edges of the petals with his middle legs while scratching for fragrance with his front legs. On leaving, he releases its hold on the petals and his weight tips the lip against the column. The pollinarium is attached to his abdomen. I suppose bees are accustomed to holding onto moving surfaces and don't find this trapeze act unnerving.

The lip in dorsal view, a sturdy boat-shaped platform for the bee.

The underside of the lip.

Anguloa clowesii grows as an epiphyte or terrestrial at around 1600 meters elevation in Colombia and Venezuela. In cultivation they are often deciduous, although in our greenhouse they rarely lose all their leaves.

Next: Anguloa x ruckeri.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Greenhouse in Midwinter

Saturday seemed like the darkest day of the year. Ten hours of twilight followed by fourteen hours of night. Outside was a warm blanket of fog. Inside the greenhouse, the plants yawned and went back to sleep. But not our tiny Ida lata. It glowed like a candelabra.

I admit I have kind of a thing for this genus, the former Lycaste species from South America now properly called Sudamerlycaste. I love the subtle ivory and olive color. And that fringe. Sudamerlycaste is a genus for connoisseurs of lip fringe.

Sudamerlycaste fimbriata has a more robust flower, about four inches from top to bottom, with a nice sawtooth fringe. It's a ghostly presence in our dark greenhouse.

Many of the Sudamerlycaste species are suited to a cool greenhouse, but ours are, for the present, tolerating intermediate temperatures (60º-ish night minimum), probably because the last two summers have been uncharacteristically cool. We grow our plants in a mixture of premium long-fibered sphagnum and coarse chopped tree fern fiber.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pescatoria lehmannii

The phrase 'beautiful orchid' invariably conjures in my mind an image of this particular species.

It's not just the blue-violet perianth or the creamy citrus scent. On top of everything else, it's that lip, thickly carpeted with hairs, that makes Pescatoria* lehmannii extraordinary to me. That combination of beauty and quirkiness is irresistible.

So what's up with that lip, anyway?  Let's remove the petals and sepals and have a closer look.
Dorsal view. Pointing directly at us is the column and below it is that impressively hairy lip.

Turning the flower on its side, you can see that the lip has a distinctive raised thickening, or callus, at its base. The callus has ribs, called keels.

Dorsal view again, this time with the column removed. With the column removed you can get a better look at the base of the lip and the callus. The base of the lip has a deep opening outlined by the callus. In Pescatoria lehmannii the interior outline of the callus is an inverted M.

Turning the lip over to view its ventral surface, you can see that the lip actually has two side lobes rolled backward. At the base of the lip is the narrow claw, which joins the lip to the base of the column.
Here's the column in ventral view. Some pescatorias (the former Bollea species) have a column with lateral wings. Pescatoria lehmannii has a wingless column.

We grow Pescatoria lehmannii in a greenhouse with intermediate temperatures, 85% relative humidity and 80 % shade. It does well for us in a mixture of premium sphagnum and coarse shredded tree fern fiber. Since pescatorias (all Zygopetalinae, actually) hate root disturbance, I prefer to grow them in cedar baskets rather than plastic containers. After about three years, the basket disintegrates and becomes easy to remove with minimal root disturbance.

*I've updated the spelling of this genus to make it consistent with the International Plant Names Index.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Behind the Scenes at Garden Lights Holiday Nights

This week, as we raced to put the finishing touches on our Garden Lights Holiday Nights display (opening tonight!), I paused to snap a few pictures for you.

In the Conservatory Lobby, Sarah and Jason installed Freedom Red Poinsettias and variegated Spider Plants on the vertical wall.

...and Dendrobium Mini Snowflake on wave stands in front of the vertical wall. Radiant light orbs float overhead.

In the Orchid Atrium a non-traditional holiday color palette -chartreuse, pink and soft blue -is new this year, the brilliant inspiration of our Landscape Design Manager, Tres Fromme, who designs all of our seasonal displays.

It's seventeen feet to the top. Jason, Matt and Sarah installed Jubilee Pink Poinsettias and Dracaena Lemon Lime on our Poinsettia tree.

Megan engulfed in a sea of pink Kalanchoe, Echeveria Big Blue, Dracaena Limelight and Sansevieria Moonshine.

Garden Lights Holiday Nights opens at 5 pm tonight. This is our biggest and best holiday show ever, so don't miss it!

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